Two good-looking people play two offbeat and abrasively charming lovers in "Love & Other Drugs." And when your screen romance is as sexual as this one, it helps if your stars are about as good-looking with their clothes off as human beings get.
The mismatched “Brokeback Mountain” couple Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal re-couple here – on the floor, the bed, back alleys. It’s a movie on the make about a guy on the make who meets a woman who isn’t above using and tossing aside guys the way he discards women. And it’s about what happens after all of that mating, when things get serious.
Gyllenhaal is Jamie, a med school drop-out who rattles through assorted sales jobs, getting by on his flirty sales pitch. Then he stumbles into pharmaceuticals. Director and co-writer Ed Zwick (“Glory,” “Defiance,” and more tellingly “About Last Night ...”) plops Jamie into Pfizer just as Zoloft and then Viagra take off. Some of the most interesting stuff in the movie concerns the tricks drug reps use to get doctors to prescribe their medications and the little bribes doctors take that grease the wheels, the subject of a major ProPublica news exposé this fall.
Jamie quickly masters the trade, taking the advice of his boss (Oliver Platt), getting in good with a “thought leader” doctor (Hank Azaria) whose influence will cause others to prescribe his drugs. But then Jamie meets a patient, one with a wicked wit, a wicked temper and a funny attitude about her health. Maggie (Hathaway) is “not too bummed about having a major degenerative disorder at 26.” And she’s not interested in Jamie’s mating games. Cards on the table, a tumble on the bed. Just don’t call her “girlfriend” or it’s over.
The arc of their relationship is cute. Some of the heart we hope for in a good romance, those lump-in-the-throat moments, may be missing. But Gyllenhaal and Hathaway have great chemistry. She’s turned this sexually aggressive princess thing she does into a second post-“Princess Diaries” career. He adds a touch of horn-dog to his doe-eyed innocence and takes his game to a whole new level.
But there’s a weight hanging around this movie’s neck. It’s the product at the core of the tale, the wonder drug that makes our young hero such a success. More than a decade after its introduction, is there a Viagra joke we haven’t heard or seen, a “limp” or “stiff” pun we haven’t heard?
Still, the Maggie/Jamie banter is sarcastic and cute.
“I’m a drug rep. I’m not a creep.”
The casting – George Segal and the late Jill Clayburgh play Jamie’s parents, Josh Gad is hilarious as his boorish, bloated, blubbering brother – is spot on, the pacing quick and the touch, for the most part, light.
“Love & Other Drugs” works according to formula.
LOVE & OTHER DRUGS
* * *
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Judy Greer
Director: Edward Zwick
Running time: 1:52
Rating: R; strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug material